When I was young and our family went on a trip, my mom would often buy us “invisible ink” books to play with. With a special yellow pen you could uncover the answers to questions, find interesting animals or see characters of a story. Creative Communications currently offers a book called “I Was Lost, Now I’m Found,” in which you need only an ordinary pencil to reveal images to tell you the story of Jesus (Order Code FN7).
The idea of invisible ink is a reminder to us that God has a story to tell us right beneath the surface of our lives. We are sons and daughters of our parents, for instance, but beneath the surface we know there is a greater family we are a part of, the family of God. We know that we are citizens of the country where we dwell, but beneath the surface we belong to the kingdom of God. We see ourselves as students, parents, workers, teachers, children, friends and many other roles that we have from day-to-day, but beneath the surface is Christ within us. He is guiding our thoughts, words and deeds, so that when people see us, they see Christ. We don’t need a special pen or pencil to make any of this happen. It happens through the Holy Spirit, who helps us to see with new eyes the divine story that is being revealed to us.
In an article called “Sin and Forgiveness,” in the March 2019 issue of Living Lutheran, author Erin Strybis talked about a time when her young son’s tantrum led her to have a tantrum of her own. To her surprise, her son came up to her afterward and said, “It’s OK, Mommy,” and hugged her (42). Our kids “get” forgiveness more than we perhaps realize.
Strybis suggests three principles to practice in the home to reinforce the power of forgiveness:
Lean on story: The Bible is filled with stories of people who sinned and were forgiven. Think of the prodigal son, Simon Peter, the thief on the cross. Bible stories of forgiveness can be the bedtime stories we tell our children.
Lean into hugs: Remember the father of the prodigal son who ran to embrace repentant son. We need to be quick to reach out and wrap our arms around our children when they come to us confessing their sin. We need to show them that we love and forgive them wholeheartedly.
Lean on prayer: Prayer is an important piece in the practice of forgiveness. We need to pray to God when we are angry at our child and need to reorient ourselves to God’s merciful ways and we need to pray with our kid when we express forgiveness to remind us all the forgiveness comes first from God through Christ and the cross.
Let forgiveness flow freely in our families by the grace of God.
Theology professor Kevin J. Vanhoozer wrote, “Scripture is not a textbook but the Church’s holy script, and understanding it involves reading all the books in the Old and New Testament as parts of an overarching story. It’s more than narrative, it’s drama: story made flesh, in which readers today have speaking parts” (“Letter to an Aspiring Theologian,” First Things, August/September 2018, 29).
This quote is a good reminder to those in church work that implementing programs that call for parishioners to read the entire Bible over the course of a certain period of time is a valuable and worthwhile exercise even when slogging through the book of Numbers. We as Christians need to see the big picture and be reminded of it again and again. This is not some new story of salvation. It is the old, old story of Jesus and his love.
The other part of this quote that I like is that it reminds us that the Bible is not something to put on a shelf to collect dust somewhere. It is not just something to read in a college course and box up in the basement. It is not just a sweet story that you read to kids at bedtime from time to time. It is living and active and something that is a part of us and a part of our lives here and now.
The best part of the quote for me is that it declares to us that everyone has a part to play in the drama that began in the Bible. This divine play does not end with the last word of the book of Revelation. It continues with each one of us who have faith in Christ and believe in him. No believer is left out of this play. Everyone has a part. The story of what is yet to come on the Last Day when Jesus calls us home to be with him as his forgiven and loved brothers and sisters still needs to be told to audiences all over the world in many and various ways. Some have speaking roles. Some sing in the chorus. Some pull the curtain open to reveal a truth about our salvation to someone. We are on the world’s stage for a reason. And it not to signify nothing, to paraphrase Shakespeare. But what we have to share signifies everything. We only need to wait for the curtain call when Christ returns with endless applause.
When I was a kid, during the season of Advent we would always have a little manger scene out with the figures of Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus, a shepherd and three wise men. It was a child-friendly set, with almost like a Lincoln Log stable and Fisher Price style figures (I know I am dating myself with these references).
I just recently learned that this manger scene was a wedding gift for my parents, who were married 50 years ago on December 27, 1967. What a wonderful wedding gift to give: the story of the birth of Jesus in tangible form to share with future children as part of a family tradition.
My parents still have those figures and they still put them out. And I am again reminded when I see them of the marvelous story of how Christ came to earth to save us.
There is a big trend happening now in what is currently being called legacy narratives.
Legacy narratives are the stories you tell of the events of your lifetime that you wish to pass on to future generations.
Many people are using their later years to write their legacy narratives often with the help of self-publishers who can print their writings in a professional format as a beautiful keepsake for children and grandchildren.
I know that my grandmother was ahead of the curve on this one, and wrote Gramma Speaks Her Piece more than 30 years ago, and we in our family still often refer to something that she mentioned in that book.
What will you say in your Christmas letter this year?
I confess that I am one of those people who loves composing and receiving Christmas letters. Maybe it is the writer in me, but there is something therapeutic to me about summing up the events of the past year in a single page and reminding me and all the friends and loved ones on my Christmas list that the Savior who was born for us in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago is still at work in our daily lives.
I love to hear the stories of how God worked in the lives of others during the past year and there is a sense in the very writing of Christmas letters that we are all in this together, that we are corresponding out of mutual love and respect and a bond with one another.